Australia — `We are going broke’ was the cry from Wartook and Dadswells Bridge businesses at a forum to formulate a plan to resurrect tourism for the area.
An open forum at Wartook Pottery yesterday followed Horsham Rural City Council’s Tourism Advisory Committee’s monthly meeting.
About 20 tourism operators from across the municipality attended the forum, where the council presented a potential new marketing strategy to increase tourism.
A draft concept of the Grampians Wildlife Viewing Corridor was presented to the meeting as a marketing tool for the area.
Tourism operators were pleased to see the council formulating ideas to help them but were straight-forward in airing their concerns.
Dadswells Bridge Motel Hotel owner Noel Maslamoney said there were numerous tourist businesses for sale in the area.
“Around me all the businesses are selling up,” he said.
“We have the talkfests and we have the promotions but we don’t have people out here.”
Mr Maslamoney said he had spent more than $1 million in the past five years, including $10,000 on a private consultant after the 2006 bushfires.
Mr Maslamoney said the council needed to work harder to attract visitors to the area.
“I don’t want to get them from Tullamarine Airport, I want to get them from bloody Horsham,” he said.
Caroline Hollis, of Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge, said the lack of tourists visiting the area was a real problem.
“We are going broke while every other industry gets help,” she said.
“The farmers get help. We get nothing.”
Frank Bills, of Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort, showed people at the meeting a colourful, glossy fold-out brochure of the Great Ocean Road.
“This is what we need,” he said.
“The point is that is why we are all here because we are all going broke.”
Mr Bills said the area had so much untapped potential.
“We’ve got so much history in the mountains, I’m talking about the whole mountain range, not just Halls Gap,” he said.
“We’re all dying here, we’re all literally dying.”
Don Calvert, of Mountain Grand Guest House and Halls Gap Tourism, said Halls Gap was experiencing similar problems. “And it’s not just the Grampians, it’s happening everywhere,” he said.
“We’re suffering in Halls Gap, we’ve seen improved visitor numbers but it’s only improved slightly.”
Mr Calvert said the bushfires were not the only reason for the problem.
“Don’t just blame the bushfires, things have been on the decline since 1999,” he said. “We’re trying to be positive about our predicament, we are trying to come up with ideas and keep our product up to scratch.”